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Rumsfeld Gets Big Pentagon Sendoff

After three terms in Congress from Illinois, Rumsfeld became a high-level official and NATO ambassador under President Nixon. He was Ford's chief of staff before leading the Defense Department from 1975 to 1977. He served briefly as a special ambassador to the Middle East for President Reagan. In between government stints, he made millions in the private sector.

This time around, the nation didn't know quite what to do with the square-jawed, squint-eyed and acid-tongued man who became known as "Rummy."

In the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the U.S. military was racking up successes against the al-Qaida-harboring Taliban in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld's daily press briefings, by turns combative and courtly, fascinated and entertained the nation. His frank assessments, peppered with "by gollys" and "my goodnesses," were a refreshing alternative to bureaucrat-ese.

But as Iraq grew messier and deadlier, Republicans began signing on to the persistent Democratic calls for Rumsfeld to lose his job. A group of ex-generals went public with their assertion Rumsfeld was a failure. Prominent voices inside the administration wondered quietly why Rumsfeld wasn't being held accountable.

On Iraq, the complaint list was long: He resisted sending enough troops to Iraq in the beginning; he remained in denial about the insurgency even after its deadly consequences were clear and he failed to properly equip American troops.

Rumsfeld's style earned him few friends. His demands had alienated the officer corps and his dismissiveness rankled members of Congress. His outsize ambition for a radically transformed U.S. armed forces, particularly the Army, unnerved some traditionalists.

Rumsfeld twice offered Bush his resignation _ once during the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in spring 2004 and again shortly after that.

All along, Bush insisted he was happy with his Pentagon chief.

The president pivoted, however, the day after midterm elections that handed Democrats control of the House and the Senate in voting largely viewed as a message of discontent about the war. Bush, a fidgeting Rumsfeld standing beside him in the Oval Office, announced his departure and the choice of Gates, a mild-mannered CIA director from his father's administration, as Rumsfeld's replacement.

In his parting advice, Rumsfeld said America must increase investment in its military.

"Ours is a world of unstable dictators, weapon proliferators and rogue regimes, and each of these enemies seeks out our vulnerabilities," he said. "Ours is also a world of many friends and allies, but sadly, realistically, friends and allies with declining defense investment and declining capabilities and, I would add, as a result, with increasing vulnerabilities. All of which requires that the United States of America invest more."


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© 2006 The Associated Press